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The sales and marketing world is full of clichés.

Most are tedious excuses for motivation bandied around by those influenced too heavily by The Wolf of Wall Street or Glengarry Glen Ross.

Spend any time in sales groups on LinkedIn, Facebook or even in person and people will boast how often they ring the bell, that their whole mantra is to always be closing, or a new take on the now very tired “sell me this pen”.

Whilst these clichés might be annoying, there’s actually an element of truth behind them. They all genuinely correspond to a real element of the sales and marketing cycle.

However, there’s one clichéd saying which stands above those listed as the most accurate and relevant for any brand.

People buy from those they know, like, and trust.

This is the marketing cliché every brand needs to focus on. Personal referrals are the most effective methods of driving sales, Nielsen puts referrals at four times more effective than any other source.  

It’s hardly a new revelation. And yet, brands seem to have forgotten about the power of personal referrals. Many brands see the challenge of turning customers into referral driving advocates as something to be accomplished through brand centric campaigns.

But you cannot force people to trust you. The path to building trust and establishing advocates begins earlier in the purchase journey, and is most definitely not solely the responsibility of your brand.

What’s Caused Lower Trust in Brands

Year on year, trust across the board is decreasing. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer report centred on the topic of “trust in crisis”.

Their study revealed a substantial drop in trust across business, media, NGOs, and governments from their 2016 study.

Brand Trust

A drop which, when compared to the last five years, is the biggest one to date.

Brand Trust

Source

There’s no question that trust is becoming a hard fought for commodity in the business world, the question is, what changed? Why are modern consumers so untrusting of the brands they patronise?

It’s a difficult question to answer, however, there’s a definite correlation between the diminishment in trust and the popularisation of social media and digital channels.

In recent years, social media has seen a meteoric rise in popularity.

Brand Trust

Source

Whilst initially intended to help users stay connected and foster interpersonal relationships, social media has grown into something far more.

Social media networks dominate the business world. Sure, they form a huge central element to many brand’s online paid ad campaigns, but more than that, they’re one of the go-to resources for users looking to research on a brand or product.

Half of adults in the US will actively look for reviews before making any sort of purchase decision. They want the unbiased opinion of another user before handing over their card details.

Brand Trust

As more consumers take to social media to discuss, review, and communicate with their favourite brands, searches for those brands often result in a social media account being one of the top search results.

Brand Trust

Unfortunately for brands, the majority of responses these pages see are negative and show the company in a poor light. According to Brand Watch, “most customers (74%) believe that if they take to social media to criticize a brand, this leads to better customer service.

And so you end up with social media feed full of complaints, negative sentiments, and terrible reviews which is enough to lower the trust any customer has in your brand.

It seems the ever diminishing trust users have in businesses comes down to an increase in transparency. As social media has grown, so too has the potential for users to get a real understanding of how the business operates.

Potential customers can connect with current customers across the globe. They can read real time, accurate reviews of the business and their product which will colour their opinion of the brand or service.

And with the unhappiest segment of most audiences being the most vocal, there’s a good chance that a potential customer’s first contact with your brand will be one that’s negative.

Brands could once get away with making grand claims and shuffling customer complaints under the carpet, but the growth in transparency has made this virtually impossible for companies to achieve.

How You Can Foster Trust and Attract More Customers

There’s a plethora of advice online regarding how best to combat negative social media comments and reviews, but it’s all very reactionary.

You have to wait for users to be unhappy with your service before taking actions to clarify, rectify, or apologise. The problem with this is the fragility of trust.

Once trust has been damaged, it’s very difficult to repair. If a user Google’s your brand, is directed to your Facebook page or Twitter account, and sees something similar to the below they’re going to have a poor opinion of your brand.

Brand Trust

Example from Lush UK’s Facebook Page

Brand Trust

Virgin Media’s Twitter Feed

This kind of customer service is necessary in placating angry customers and dealing with complaints,  however, it does little for building trust with those not yet committed to your brand.

Smarter brands are leveraging social networks in a different way. They actively solicit positive feedback and push it out through every channel they can, creating a sort of blanket of positivity.

It creates a wide reaching positive image of the brand increasing the possibility that a potential customer’s first interaction is not going to negatively affect their opinion.

Huawei implemented an effective campaign in the launch of their new product, the Honor 8 phone. To build a positive image around the new product they combined their own brand generated content with user generated content collected through a customer competition.

The idea was to solicit, promote, and leverage the user generated content in a way that put the consumer voice at the heart of the brand to build a closer relationship with new customers. By turning users into advocates through this campaign, they were able to saturate their own social media feed and that of their customers with positive messages and images that built trust in the brand and product.

Brand Trust

This form of customer advocacy not only works to increase the overall reach of the brand for new product and service launches, but it’s a great way to create lasting, positive messages that instil trust throughout your prospective customer base.

Trust is a Key Component in Growing Your Brand

Most marketers and salespeople focus too heavily on quantifiable metrics. They look at the conversion rate from a visitor to customer. Figure out how many outreach campaigns need to be implemented to gain each new client, and analyse at what point a marketing lead becomes a sales qualified lead.

These are all important elements of running a business, but each one is underpinned by the trust people have in your brand.

Each quantifiable metric is influenced, positively or negatively, by trust. We see it all the time when certain brands break rules, they lose customers and their stock price drops. And it always takes them a long time to regain the trust so important for continued growth.

Trust is a commodity which is hard to win, and easy to lose.

Too many brands treat their customer service and trust building through purely reactionary means. They wait until something happens before they take action. And whilst that might go some way in repairing damaged trust, it’s too little, too late.

Trust in brands is diminishing with every passing year. If you follow the common path of offering a conciliatory apology and assistance, you’re going to experience the lack of trust so many other brands do.

You’ve got to be proactive in establishing a positive image of your brand from the outset. You’ve got to start on the right foot and foster a trustworthy message which excites customers and helps you stand out from every other brand whose social feeds are full of negativity and complaints.

If you need help raising your brands trust levels with customers, get in touch with one of your Customer Success experts today and let them guide you on your brand transformation journey.

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